Fri, Nov 02, 2007 - Page 6 News List

UN extends security mandate in Sudan

MONITORS The UN secretary-general said events in recent months were `a sobering reminder' of the fragility of the peace deal, after a decree was extended to next year

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND UNITED NATIONS

The UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the UN force monitoring a 2005 peace deal that ended a 21-year civil war between Sudan's mostly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south.

The council vote came Wednesday, less than two weeks after Sudan faced its biggest political crisis since the end of the civil war when the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, led by southern Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir, walked out of the government, accusing Khartoum of multiple breaches of the 2005 peace deal.

The group accused the government of not sharing the country's oil wealth as agreed, not pulling troops out of southern Sudan, and remilitarizing contested border zones where the main oil reserves are located.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Kiir have failed to bring disaffected former southern rebel ministers back into the country's unity government despite a recent reshuffle addressing their concerns, but they have pledged to continue implementing the 2005 peace agreement.

The resolution adopted on Wednesday extends the mandate of the 18,800-strong UN peacekeeping mission until April 30 next year and ``stresses the importance of full and expeditious implementation of all elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement'' and other peace accords.

In his report to the Security Council last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said events in recent months were ``a sobering reminder of the fragility of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement implementation process.''

``Failure by the parties to provide the political will necessary to resolve their differences and make concrete progress on the outstanding issues without further delay could undermine the integrity of this crucial, hard-won agreement,'' he warned.

Some 2 million people died in the civil war, which was one of Africa's longest-ever conflicts.

The resolution calls on the parties ``to reduce tensions in the Abyei region, including by redeploying their forces away from the disputed Jan. 1, 1956 border and by implementing an interim administration and agreeing on boundaries.''

A return to fighting across central and southern Sudan would likely exacerbate the four and a half-year conflict in the western Darfur region, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million been displaced.

The Security Council has authorized a separate 26,000-strong joint African Union-UN force to help end the Darfur conflict.

Meanwhile, the administration of US President George W. Bush is seeking to delay Senate action on a bill authorizing states to divest assets in companies doing business with Sudan, a letter made public on Wednesday said.

Sudan has been a focus of grass-roots divestment activism for some time.

Twenty states have initiated some form of divestment from companies that do business with, or in Sudan, congressional aides said.

But the letter from the State Department to Senate leaders argues that the legislation, which attempted to provide a legal framework for such divestment, interferes with presidential foreign policy. Some state divestment laws have been challenged in the courts.

The US State Department said the legislation could set a "dangerous precedent" and make it "easier to pass similar legislation in other cases."

Activists denounced the state department letter, saying it was another example of bureaucracy trumping action on Sudan. The Bush administration has focused its Sudan policy on sanctions and support for UN efforts to solve the crisis.

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